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editorial

A sign in a robocall protest on Parliament Hills in Ottawa on Monday, March 5, 2012.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A federal court justice's ruling that misleading automated phone calls in six ridings during the 2011 federal election didn't affect the outcome should not be the end of this troubling story. Justice Richard Mosley ruled on Thursday that he will not overturn the results in the ridings where the "fraud" (his word) occurred, because there is no evidence the calls changed the results in each riding, and no evidence linking them to the winning candidates or their agents. While that is a relief, the ruling makes it clear that somebody attempted to suppress votes in a Canadian federal election, which is shocking and unacceptable, and cannot stand.

Justice Mosley has ruled unequivocally that fraudulent calls misdirecting voters to non-existent polling stations were orchestrated by a still-unnamed person or persons, and that the calls were a "concerted campaign" to "suppress the vote" of electors who had indicated in earlier voter identification calls that they did not support the Conservative candidate in their riding.

The judge paints a dismaying picture of the consequences of the so-called robocalls in Guelph, Ont.: "An estimated 150 and 200 voters were misdirected," he writes in his ruling. "Among this number were elderly or disabled voters and others with children in strollers. Some of the misdirected electors tore up their voter identification cards when they found that they could not vote there. Others, who were determined to vote, had difficulty getting to their correct poll in time.

"I don't doubt that the confidence rightfully held by Canadians has been shaken by the disclosures of widespread fraudulent activities," Justice Mosley concludes.

As well as mourning the impact of the fraud, he was critical of the respondent Conservative MPs and their party, saying, "The CPC made little effort to assist with the investigation at the outset despite early requests," and that its lawyers only "begrudgingly conceded during oral argument that what occurred was 'absolutely outrageous.'"

We, along with Justice Mosley, do not agree with a Conservative Party spokesman who said after the ruling that the court case, which was brought by individuals who were funded by the left-wing Council of Canadians, was "a transparent attempt to overturn certified election results simply because this activist group didn't like them."

On the contrary, Justice Mosley ruled there was no evidence the applicants "acted for any reason other than to assert their rights to a fair election as Canadian citizens and electors." This is something all MPs and political parties must now support unequivocally. The best way to do that is to push in a non-partisan fashion for further investigation to find out who the perpetrators were, and punish them as the law allows.

Canadians must have full confidence in their voting system. There can be no compromise about this.